William J. Meekins, 78, Baltimore Life Insurance vice president

July 04, 1998|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Many Baltimoreans knew William J. Meekins as the reserved vice president of Baltimore Life Insurance Co., but to more than a dozen Thai exchange students who shared his home over the years, he was their American Dad.

The prominent businessman and husband died Thursday of Alzheimer's disease at the Charlestown Care Center in Owings Mills. He was 78.

Since 1968, Mr. Meekins and his wife, Martha, 72, had taken in students from Thailand who came to the United States to study English. The students have been more like family, Martha Meekins said. One of them was so attached to Mr. Meekins that he stayed with him for seven weeks in 1976 when Mr. Meekins was ill.

"He bathed and shaved Bill every day," Martha Meekins said. "If I had a child of my own, I could not have asked for better."

William Joshua Meekins was born in Eccleston, Baltimore County, between Owings Mills and Pikesville, but was raised on Kent Island. He graduated from Grasonville High School in 1934 and in the midst of the Great Depression left the Eastern Shore for the big city to find a better job to help his family.

Mr. Meekins landed a job at Baltimore Life Insurance Co. as a clerk. Later his father, brothers and mother followed his move to Baltimore. In 1943, Mr. Meekins joined the Army and fought in Central Europe. He was discharged three years later and came back to Baltimore, taking a few odd jobs, including a stint as a Formstone salesman.

He studied business at the Johns Hopkins University and graduated in 1954, the same year he met Martha Wells. The two married a year later and by 1956, Mr. Meekins had a job with Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust, the company that would pay most of his tuition for law courses at the University of Baltimore.

After passing the Maryland bar exam in 1960, Mr. Meekins took another job with Baltimore Life Insurance. He was the lawyer in charge of the policy service, claims, printing and supply departments. Three years later, he was promoted to assistant vice president and in 1967, he was named vice president of administration, legal and legislative matters.

Meanwhile, Mr. Meekins got involved with youngsters as a chaperon at local school dances and as a Sunday school teacher for high school students at Stone Chapel United Methodist Church.

In 1968, the Meekinses began taking in foreign exchange students. Over the years, they played host to more than a dozen students.

"I can remember coming for Thanksgiving and they had 14 Thai students here," said Helen Wells, Martha Meekins' sister. "One couple even took them on their honeymoon to Japan. That's how much they thought of him."

Mr. Meekins retired from the life insurance company in 1976. He and his wife traveled for a few years, then moved to the Charlestown retirement community in 1992.

Surviving in addition to his wife are two brothers, Norman W. Meekins of Reisterstown and R. Leon Meekins of Arnold.

Services will be held 11 a.m. Monday at Eckhardt Funeral Chapel, 11605 Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills. Contributions can be made to the Benevolence Fund of Charlestown, Maiden Choice Lane, Baltimore 21228.

Pub Date: 7/04/98

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